Rosalind (ROHZ-eh-lihnd), who is disguised as Ganymede (GAN-eh-meed) in the forest scenes, the daughter of the banished Duke Senior. A witty, self-possessed young woman, she accepts whatever fortune brings, be it love or exile, with gaiety and good sense. She is amused by the ironic situations arising from her disguise as a youth, and she wryly recognizes the humorous aspects of her growing love for Orlando, whose passion she pretends to be curing. Her central place in the lives of her companions is epitomized in the final scene, in which she sorts out the tangled skeins of romance and, with Orlando, joins three other couples before Hymen, the god of marriage.
Orlando (ohr-LAN-doh), the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, the late ally of Rosalind’s father. Although his elder brother mistreats him and neglects his education, he reveals his gentle birth in his manner and appearance. His love for Rosalind provokes extravagantly romantic gestures, but the deeper feeling of which he is capable is evident in his concern for his faithful old servant Adam, as well as in his fidelity to his sweetheart.
Celia (SEE-lee-uh), Rosalind’s gentle cousin, who refuses to let her depart alone for the Forest of Arden. She, too, is gay and witty, ready to exchange quips with Touchstone and tease Rosalind about her love for Orlando. When she meets Orlando’s brother Oliver, however, she succumbs to Cupid even more rapidly than did her cousin.
Touchstone, Duke Frederick’s clever fool, who accompanies his master’s daughter Celia and Rosalind into the Forest of Arden, much to the amusement of Jaques and to the consternation of the old shepherd Corin, who finds himself damned for never having been at court, according to Touchstone’s logic. The fool, more than any of the other characters, remains at heart a courtier, even in Arcadia, but he returns from the forest with a country wench as his bride.
Jaques (JAY-kweez), a hanger-on of Duke Senior’s court in Arden, a professional man of melancholy who philosophizes on the “seven ages of man.” He is fascinated by the presence in the forest of a “motley fool,” and he delights in Touchstone’s explanations of court formalities. He remains in the forest when his lord recovers his dukedom, and he goes off to observe and comment on the unexpected conversion of Duke Frederick.
Oliver, Orlando’s greedy, tyrannical brother, who tries to deprive him of both wealth and life. Sent by Duke Frederick to find his brother or forfeit all his lands, he is rescued by Orlando from a lioness. This kindness from his mistreated brother gives him new humanity, and he becomes a worthy husband for Celia.
Duke Frederick, Celia’s strong, self-centered father, the usurper. Fearing her popularity with the people, he arbitrarily sends Rosalind away to her exiled father. Later, equally unreasonably, he banishes Orlando for being the son of an old enemy and then sets Oliver wandering in search of the brother he despises. He is reported at the end of the play to have retired from the world with an old hermit.
Duke Senior, Rosalind’s genial father, banished by his brother Duke Frederick. He holds court under the greenwood trees, drawing amusement from hunting, singing, and listening to Jaques’ melancholy philosophy in the golden world of Arden.
Silvius (SIHL-vee-uhs), a lovesick young shepherd. He asks Ganymede to help him win his scornful sweetheart Phebe.
Phebe (FEE-bee), a disdainful shepherdess. Rebuked by Ganymede for her cruelty to Silvius, she promptly becomes enamored of Ganymede. She promises, however, to wed Silvius if she refuses Ganymede; she does so once Rosalind reveals her identity.
Audrey, Touchstone’s homely, stupid, and good-hearted country wench.
William, Audrey’s equally simpleminded rustic suitor.
Corin (KOHR-ihn), a wise, well-meaning old shepherd. He gives good counsel to William and expresses the virtues of the simple life in his cross-purposes discussion of court and country with Touchstone.
Adam, a faithful old servant of Orlando’s family. He accompanies his young master into the forest.
Jaques, the brother of Orlando and Oliver. He brings the news of Duke Frederick’s retirement to the forest.
Sir Oliver Martext
Sir Oliver Martext, a “hedge-priest” hired by Touchstone to marry him to Audrey in somewhat dubious rites.
Le Beau (leh boh), Duke Frederick’s pompous attendant.
Charles, a champion wrestler challenged and defeated by Orlando.
Amiens (AY-mee-ehnz), one of Duke Senior’s lords.
Dennis, Oliver’s servant.
Hymen (HI-mehn), the god of marriage.